Did crocodiles actually eat a whole lot of Japanese troopers throughout WWII?

This text by Matt Fratus was initially revealed by Espresso or Die.

In January 1945, two infantry brigades from the Indian Military and a detachment of British commandos had been dispatched to Ramree Island, the most important island off the coast of present-day Myanmar (then generally known as Burma). Someplace between 1,200 and 1,500 troopers from the Imperial Japanese Military’s 54th Division had been entrenched on Ramree. If the British 14th Military succeeded in taking the island, it may construct an airbase there and use it as a launch level for bombing missions over Burma and Malaysia. 

After weeks of bitter combating, the Allies managed to drive the final surviving Japanese troopers into mangrove swamps surrounding the island — swamps populated by 1000’s of saltwater crocodiles. Because the Indian and British troops closed in, the Japanese troopers had been confronted with two choices: They may keep and combat or try and flee by way of the marshes and escape by sea. They determined to flee. What occurred subsequent is a little bit of a thriller; nevertheless, in keeping with one model of the story — the best-known model — solely 20 of the troopers who entered the marshes made it out alive; the remaining had been eaten by crocodiles.

A topic of a lot debate and intrigue amongst World Warfare II historians, the story of how a whole lot of Japanese troops met their grotesque destiny within the crocodile-infested marshes of Ramree Island turned so extensively believed that it was included within the Guinness E book of World Data below the entry for many fatalities in a crocodile assault. The story originated with information articles revealed across the time of the incident, however sure plot holes recognized within the years since have raised questions in regards to the veracity of these early studies. Maybe the largest query that the crocodile story doesn’t sufficiently reply considerations the staggering demise toll: How did solely 20 Japanese troopers survive? How did crocodiles handle to kill so many armed males? 

A photoshopped depiction of a saltwater crocodile rising from the water alongside British troopers at Ramree Island throughout World Warfare II. (Photoshopped picture courtesy of or Die)

Saltwater crocodiles can weigh greater than 2,000 kilos and have one of many strongest jaws within the animal kingdom. They’re additionally infamous for attacking people who stray into their habitats. Osama, a saltwater crocodile named after the terrorist Usama Bin Laden, reportedly killed and ate 80 individuals in Uganda over a interval of 14 years starting in 1991. Gustave, a Nile crocodile as soon as described as a “serial killer” by Nationwide Geographic, is believed to have killed as many as 300 individuals within the east African nation of Burundi within the Nineteen Eighties and Nineties. Whereas crocodiles are prolific killers, historians have lengthy doubted that greater than 800 Japanese troopers had been killed at Ramree Island in such a brief time frame, and people doubts have solely been affirmed by proof uncovered in recent times that signifies that the true story was buried amid a flurry of sensational reporting.

On Feb. 25, 1945, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that “Japanese stragglers who’re attempting to flee from Ramree Island off the west coast of Burma, are being pressured by starvation out of mangrove swamps and lots of have been killed by crocodiles.” From there, the story took on a lifetime of its personal. Describing the incident in his 1962 ebook Wildlife Sketches, the Canadian naturalist Bruce Stanley Wright wrote that an estimated 1,000 Japanese troopers fled into the marshes and that solely 20 got here out alive. How he arrived at that quantity is unclear, however the Guinness E book of World Data accepted it as truth and started together with Wright’s model of the story of their annual ebook beginning in 1968.

Screenshot exhibiting the 2017 version of the Guinness E book of World Data including a word to the earlier version correcting details about the declare that saltwater crocodiles killed a whole lot of Japanese troopers at Ramree Island in World Warfare II. Screenshot courtesy of the Guinness E book of World Data/Nationwide Geographic.

Dr. Sam Willis, an award-winning historian, archaeologist, and host of Nationwide Geographic’s Nazi Bizarre Warfare Two, investigated a few of World Warfare II’s most weird tales, together with Hitler’s methheads and Himmler’s haunted fort. In 2016, he determined to deal with the thriller of the Crocodile Bloodbath at Ramree Island after studying that the Guinness E book of World Data had relied on Wright’s ebook for supply materials. As a part of his analysis, he visited the marshes of Ramree Island and interviewed locals. He additionally gathered army information that acknowledged that almost all of Japanese troopers had been shot lifeless by the Allies or just drowned within the swamp. Numerous British troopers did certainly witness crocodiles devouring lifeless Japanese our bodies, however Willis finally decided that almost all of Japanese troopers died in fight or drowned.

Upon finishing his investigation, Willis introduced his findings to Guinness E book of World Data editor-in-chief Crag Glenday, who agreed so as to add a word to the Ramree Island entry stating that “new analysis by the Nationwide Geographic Channel, nevertheless, has solid doubt on the story, or no less than on the extent of deaths.” Thus, the legend was put to relaxation. As for the reality, nevertheless, that will have been misplaced to historical past.

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